Cartoon Knife in Back Revisited!

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at Phoenix Preacher over this cartoon that I posted the other day. My cartoon on nakedpastor only provoked 7 comments. But Phoenix Preacher is getting a vast range of responses. Some are offended and repulsed by it. Some identify with it.

I rarely comment on other blogs. I should do it more often. But I felt like participating in the conversation. Here’s what I said:

Hey everyone. Quite a conversation!! Maybe I can shed some light on the cartoon by explaining what motivated me to draw it. It always amazes me, in the church… because that’s where I spent over 40 years of my life so that’s pretty much all I have to go by… how people could really hurt each other totally unaware of the wounding they’ve caused and just go on as if nothing happened. I don’t know how many times I received words “from the Lord” that should have never left the mouths of the people saying them. But because it was all prefaced with “thus saith the Lord” it was excusable. That’s just a for instance.

Despite people’s opinions about nakedpastor and the biting critique my cartoons sometimes provide, I do believe that almost all churches and Christians sincerely mean well. I don’t know of any Christians who would intentionally hurt someone. (Well… maybe just a few!) We find other ways of achieving our sometimes selfish and harmful agendas by veiling them with a thin cloak of good intentions.

I assert: This cloak of good intentions that veils our selfish and harmful agendas is almost always the function of religion and spirituality.

What do you think?


15 Replies to “Cartoon Knife in Back Revisited!”

  1. I heard Bill Hybels say there’s nothing better than the church when things are working. I add there’s nothing more painful than the church when it doesn’t.

    I think you are definitely doing your calling as an artist, David, inviting such rich discussion. The wider church needs such prophetic pokes. Thanks.

  2. When my paternal grandmother was dying slowly of multi-infarct dementia, my mother arranged all her care and visited her every day. My aunt managed to pass through the coastal town where this took place hundreds of times without stopping to visit, saying it hurt her too much to see her mother like that. It didn’t hurt her too much to continue on her shopping trips. On the phone one day she asked my mother why she bothered: “After all, Mama never liked you. And besides, you’re not even a Christian.”

    Luckily I am not obliged to pretend to like my aunt.

  3. I remember once, when I was still going to church, that the pastor I served “under” came out of a board meeting bragging about he had just endured this “knife in the back” (referring to how he had defending me against some kind of ridicule that I still know nothing about), and all I kept thinking, “Wait a minute… aren’t I the one who is being stabbed in the back here?” It was one of the wierdest experiences I went through, other than the entire time that I served under his leadership. I felt like I was in a constant riddle – trying constantly to figure out if this guy was really for me or against me. Thank God, He delivered me. 🙂

  4. np –
    I am a former ministry leader who has been hurt very badly by the selfish and harmful agendas of self-proclaimed Christians. For that reason, I don’t go to church anymore…and, because I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on any friend or foe, I too often catch myself being a vocal ‘church anti-witness’, undoing the work towards increasing attendance that so much effort is put into by local pastors.

    I have no delusions about the levels of meanness, self-centeredness, and blatant opportunism that people can sink to, believers and unbelievers alike, and how much it can hurt others. But the two things that drove me to give up on church were:

    –the dishonesty: people lying about their lives, pastors lying to please their congregations and cover their mistakes, coworkers smiling to your face and cutting you to pieces behind your back, everyone wearing masks on Sunday and not wanting anyone to see what they are like Mon-Sat.

    –the spinelessness: when it’s revealed that someone is being hurt by someone else in the congregation, why don’t church leaders do anything to stop it? At some point, you have to say to the mean people, “No. What you are doing is hurting other people. Stop that.” Instead, everyone hunkers down, ignores the problem and hopes it goes away, defends the attacker, and/or tries to appease the attacker in hopes he or she won’t turn and attack them (there was even an article about how to appease a narcissistic church leader in Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal this week). It’s like everyone says, “Not my problem…actually, it’s God’s problem, so I’ll just sneak by the bleeding body and leave it all up to Him…”).

    Now that I’m totally out of church community and culture, I’m amazed at how I find the honesty in the real world downright refreshing….not to mention seeing how many people step up to the plate when they see the need (instead of pausing to decide, “Is God really calling me to do this?” or to evaluate how such an action would improve their ministry’s PR and local standing).

    Hopefully I’m just in an area where all the churches suck (it is a small town, with lots of churches that seem to have started as a result of splits in previous congregations), all in all, they are rather balkanized. I don’t plan to give up on Christ, but to all those who are in good churches and are indignant at me relating my experience and feelings (“how dare you insult the Bride of Christ!”), I ask that you simply pray for all those who have been hurt in church contexts by their professed brothers and sisters in Christ (don’t deny their existence), and that they may be brought back into the fold, guided by God’s love.

    np, I appreciate your courage in publishing your cartoons; those in church leadership need to see them, and learn something from whatever flavor of discomfort they stir within them. Thanks, and keep up the good work.

  5. Actually it doesn’t need to be so. But what we see a lot of is Christianity practiced in an almost untouchable way. We don’t examine ourselves or our motives. We tend to explain everything away in nice spiritual terms – yet our core identity is impoverished. Rather than address the deep problems we cling to platitudes of Jesus will make it better and completely reject any offer of help that Jesus makes. There are a lot of reasons for how we got this messed up, but at this point it doesn’t matter. Getting out to the mess will take hard work, deep introspection, and a real trust in God.

  6. In the buckle of the Bible belt I have found that many “Christians”, i.e. those who have been “saved” are then not concerned about their behavior because “Once saved, always saved.” Once I had been saved from the idea of afterlife and the fear about where I would spend it, I found value to this life. Then the questions became, “How do I live this life well?” I have since noticed that people on a spiritual path of intention rather than religion pay far more attention to how they manifest in their lives an ethic which affirms life, how they behave in terms of respecting the sacredness of the Earth and others in it. Some of them are in churches, but most are the ones with knives in their backs, not the ones wielding them.

  7. I’m sure there is a lot of inadvertent backstabbing by people that was well-intentioned but just thoughtless, but to be honest, the backstabbing I’ve heard about and witnessed seemed at least as ruthless as a business environment. The sad part is that people in the church, a supposed bastion of morality, should know better, but it’s not just that they fall short of the standard, it’s like they try to leap off the standard as far as they can.

  8. I really appreciated your comment David, when you said that Christians sometimes hurt others without knowing it (my own words).
    When my daughter was dying, christians told us that she was sick because we didn’t have enough faith or had some hidden sin or…you get the picture. But some of them also cooked meals for us and came to the hospital to spend the night with us.
    Our daughter died. Then I got sick and christians told me why, according to them, so many bad things happened to us. But some of them also showed us love care and concern.
    At that time our pastor was a very bad man. He was exposed for what he did (sexual abuse on 12 little girls) and expelled from church.
    Another pastor came. When he heard about what our family went through, he was shocked. He asked me to “preach” one sunday morning, just talk about suffering and what to do and not to do when people are hurting. That man actually invited me to speak about all those things people say that are hurtful.
    I’m still part of that church. I have been hurt in it but I’m sure I did hurt other people too without knowing it. And I also experienced a lot of love there.
    We are a church made of first generation christians. It means two things: we don’t have much experience but also most of us are passionnate about their faith. Maybe it’s easier in that kind of church because people are there because they really love God and not just because it’s a tradition.
    Anyway, I just wanted to say that everything is not always black and white…And I’m really sorry for all of you who are hurting because of what christians said or did to you….Church should be a place of love not betrayal…

  9. I understand the sentiment of this, but I found this cartoon somewhat ambiguous in the detail – in a thought-provoking way, though! I wondered whether only those with their backs to us had been stabbed, and the ones facing us were doing the stabbing? They are offering the left hand instead of the right, while it must have been their right hands that did the stabbing. Is this deliberate? The left/right contrast reminded me of course of Jesus’s saying about being hit in the face.

    Have you read the explanation that if someone hits you on the right cheek they have used the back of their hand, in an insulting slap? (That assumes they’re right handed, of course, which everyone was assumed to be.) Inviting them to hit you on the left cheek instead is a way of saying, “Come on and hit me properly, then,” daring the other person to expose their evil fully. This explanation fits well with the other sayings about dealing with injustice by exposing it.

  10. Well, theoretically, the ones facing us have knives in their backs too. We just can’t see them. And the left handed shake was totally an unintentional detail.

  11. Some of us are jerks about getting what we want. We are demanding. We are rageful. We put people down. There are others of us who are gracious and kind and self-sacrificing. But when it comes down to it, we’re doing it to GET WHAT WE WANT. When kindness is cloaked in unrecognized selfishness, we hurt those around us. Always.

  12. Does it really surprise you that when an infection is lanced, unsightly material is shown the light of day? M’tinks you have a strong stomach,please do not back off from doing a little “stabbing” of your own. We do miss the insights of the”Lawyer of the Lord”.

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